During the years of 1909 until 1914, Home Rule was an issue that divided the Irish people. Tension and aggression levels were high during this period, and conflict between different groups and opinions increased.
In the British Parliament in 1909, the Liberal Party were in power. When the House of Lords rejected the Budget, which would have put wealthier people at a disadvantage, an election was called. The election was in January 1910, and because of British political upheaval over the Liberal's plans, another election was held in December. In this election, the Liberals did not have enough of a majority to be in power, so a coalition was formed with the Irish Parliamentary Party (or Irish Nationalist Party). The conditions of this alliance was for the Liberals to eventually introduce a Home Rule Bill for Ireland.
In Ireland, the population was split over the concept of Home Rule. The northern Ulster counties (mainly Protestant, with many English trade links) were in favour of staying with England. Down in the south of Ireland, however, the mainly Catholic population was for Home Rule, many seeing it as a chance for freedom or the first step towards a Republic. The Protestants in the north and the Catholics in the south were divided in their opinions, and as a result, levels of conflict between the two groups increased.
In 1911, the British Prime Minister Asquith was determined to introduce a new law, the Parliament Act. This limited the House of Lords' power, so that when a new bill was being introduced, they could only veto it twice, or slow the proceedings for two years. On the bill's third reading, it would automatically become law. In the wake of this act, Asquith introduced the Third Home Rule Bill in 1912. This Bill was seen as a compromise, to satisfy the supporters of Home Rule and those in favour of staying with the Empire. Asquith hoped both sides would support the Bill. This, however, was not the case.
The Ulster Unionist Party immediately protested the Bill, staging a signing of a pledge called the "Ulster Solemn League and Covenant". Signed in 1912, almost 450 000 people too part in signing this agreement to stay with the Empire by any means necessary. Many signed in their own blood. So strong was anti-Home Rule feeling in northern Ireland that the UUP in January 1913 set up an army called the Ulster Volunteer Force, a well trained and well equipped group of Ulstermen numbering 100 000.
The UVF began to create civil havoc in their region, and while British policemen (Irish Protestants) were honour-bound to hold the peace, they supported the Volunteers' aims, to the extent of an incident at Curragh in 1914, when they refused to fight the Volunteers. Britain accepted this, and also ignored the following gun-running incidents at Larne, when the Volunteers bought thousands of rifles and 300 million rounds of ammunition from Germany and Belguim.
The opposition on this issue of Home Rule was just as fierce, and in 1913, the IPP quickly enlisted its own private army, the Irish National Volunteers. The aims of these men was to ensure that Home Rule was in Ireland, and with 40 000 of these men in Ulster, the stage was set for an increase in conflict.
Soon the Irish National Volunteers were importing arms from Germany and Belgium to near Dublin. The British tried to stop this, but failed. Humiliated by the jeering Dublin public upon their return, some British troops opened fire upon people in a Dublin street, Bachelor's Walk. The Dublin public, who knew that the British had made no attempt to stop Ulster Volunteer gun-running, and yet made an effort to stop the Nationalists arming, were outraged. As a mainly pro-Home Rule city, tension levels increased once more.
Home Rule, however, was not Dublin's only concern. Poverty in the working classes was high and trade unions few. In an attempt to get better working conditions, a socialist extremist named James Larkin backed up by James Connolly, organised a transport workers strike in 1913. All the workers involved in the strike were sacked, and riots occurred, Some of the strikers even got killed by the local police, and the movement had little support. To protect themselves, James Connolly (Larkin was in jail) set up a private army, the Irish Citizen Army. The Citizen Army opposed Home Rule, and wanted a socialist revolution. Aggression levels were high, and the Irish people still divided over Home Rule.
With only a few months to go before the September 1914 introduction date for Home Rule, Ireland was divided between four armies, the British (who were bound to uphold the Home Rule Bill), the Ulster Volunteers (who opposed it), the Irish Citizen Army (who also opposed it) and the Irish National Volunteers (who were determined for the law to be introduced). Home Rule brought four armies and conflict to Ireland, and was a highly controversial issue.